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Three storylines to watch for at regional baseball


By Brad Hallier

Although Class 3A and Class 2-1A have begun regional baseball play, the biggest games will be next week. The upper classifications will start next week.

Here are three storylines to watch for at area regional tournaments.

Don’t underestimate Hutchinson

Surely by now, the teams in Class 5A have taken note of the Hutchinson revival. The Salthawks enter postseason play as one of the hottest teams in the state. After starting the season 4-7, Hutchinson has rattled off 13 wins in its last 15 games.

That has moved the Salthawks to the No. 8 seed in the ultra-competitive 5A West region.

The Salthawks’ road to state will be tough, as Maize South is the region’s overall No. 1 seed and will host No. 16 Salina Central, Hutchinson and No. 9 Hays.

Hutchinson battled Maize South in 10-6 and 3-2 Mavericks wins. Hays was undefeated in Western Athletic Conference play and has played a rugged schedule. Salina Central competed with Hays twice and split a doubleheader with Hutchinson.

It’s like a mini state-quarterfinal tournament.

Can Buhler put it all together?

For a team that is 13-13, it sure doesn’t seem right that Buhler is seeded just 14th in a 19-team regional.

Buhler has impressive wins over Andover, Circle and Rose Hill this season, but struggled later in the season. However, the return of all-universe player Jeffrey Neill right before regionals helps. The biggest question for Neill will be how much can he pitch? Under normal circumstances, Neill is good enough to beat anyone in 4A, but it might be unfair to expect him to throw 110 pitches in Buhler’s regional opener vs. No. 3 Clay Center.

Clay Center has swept Buhler already this year, and its only losses have been to the top seeds on both halves of the state in 4A. It will be tough, but Buhler is good enough that Clay Center will probably throw its ace pitcher.

Buhler can beat Clay Center, and then probably Circle. The Crusaders will have to have their best night of the season to do so, but the capability is there.

Expect a tight, tense Tuesday in Halstead

The top four seeds advanced to Tuesday’s 3A regional in Halstead. Top-seed Kingman is 20-5 and will take on 11-8 but perennial power Cheney. No. 2 Hesston is 17-4 and will play No. 3 Haven (17-9).

These teams are all good and comparable. Pitching will obviously be a key, and all four teams could need many arms ready as these games could be close throughout. Great for the neutrals, gut-wrenching for the fans.